Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Maureen Downey of the AJC publishes the letter of retired Ga. Dept. of Education and he says we already have the answers

     Do you ever feel like education has similarities to a hampster wheel? It keeps spinning and different hamsters get on and off but the wheel goes nowhere other than to start and stop. Maureen Downey of the AJC published the letter of retired Georgia Department of Education Director Dr. Stan Bernknopf and he said that his 20 year tenure at the GDoE taught him that politics has kept real reform from happening in schools. Do you agree? Here's his take.

Get SchooledFixing our schools: "We know what needs to be done." We are unwilling to do it. 

Education illustrationA highlight of my job is opening my email to thoughtful notes like this one from Dr. Stan Bernknopf, who was director of the Division on Research, Evaluation and Assessment for the state Department of Education.
With his permission, I am sharing his letter:
By Dr. Stan Bernknopf
For 20 years, from 1975 to 1995, I worked for the Georgia Department of Education. When I retired, I was the Director of the Division of Assessment, Evaluation and Research.
During my tenure with the department, I had the opportunity to work for three state school superintendents, three Georgia governors, various members of the Legislature, and several state boards of education. While the major part of my 20-year DOE tenure can be described as exciting, rewarding and professionally fulfilling, the job also had its frustrations, disappointments and, in too many cases, it highlighted the naivetés and/ or ingenuousness of our educational leaders, both elected and appointed.
As an ‘X’ educator, I’m drawn to the current news pertaining to Georgia education. I especially enjoy your articles which seem to be insightful and represent well-reasoned positions. 
However, it seems that I can’t read your articles and the general educational news without once again experiencing those feelings frustration and disappointments. We seem to consistently make the same mistakes we have made in the past by consistently ignoring the past.
We present initiatives (both state and federal) as if they represent something new when, in fact, they are simply a revised program that already has a history in Georgia. 
This letter is my cathartic exercise to relieve my frustration.
During each new administration at DOE, I witnessed the creation of some sort of “educational review” committee tasked with the job of developing a road map for education in terms of funding, administration and structure.
Each of these efforts usually produced a new program with a new approach to meeting old objectives and goals.  The Georgia Basic Skills Program (GBSP), The Georgia Adequate Program for Education (APEG), and The Georgia Minimal Competency Program are a few that come to mind.
None of these efforts produced groundbreaking findings and they certainly didn’t produce information that wasn’t already known. At best, these efforts were a way to address political promises made during campaigns; at worst, they simply postponed dealing with the real issues facing education.
The professional educational community knows what problems and issues face Georgia education. More importantly, they know what needs to be done to really move Georgia education to the point where all citizens can be proud and, more importantly, our students will be adequately prepared to participate in the global community.
Why then do we insist on re-creating the wheel with each new administration, asking the same questions only to get the same answers and pretending that we are really addressing the issues with new and unique approaches?  A comprehensive answer is far from simple and would take more space than is available in this letter. A short answer would go something like this
To read the rest of the commentary and Downey's work, please go to the AJC at:
Maureen Downey

About Maureen Downey

Maureen Downey is a longtime reporter for the AJC where she has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy for 12 years.